Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Brain circuit for loneliness


A neural circuit at the base of mouse brains drives a loneliness-like state and motivates the animals to seek company.

Kay Tye at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mark Ungless at the Medical Research Council's Clinical Sciences Centre in London and their colleagues found that connections between neurons in the circuit were stronger in mice that were separated from their cage mates than in those that were grouped together. Those neurons then fired more frequently when isolated mice were put in a cage with an unfamiliar mouse, compared with animals that had not been isolated. When the scientists inhibited the neurons with light, the isolated mice showed less interest in the stranger. Activating those neurons caused the animals to actively seek other mice.

The circuit was more responsive in socially dominant animals.

Cell 164, 617–631 (2016)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Brain circuit for loneliness. Nature 530, 256 (2016).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing